During the past decade, our region has seen incredible and unprecedented growth, even during one of the most severe economic downturns in a generation. The business-friendly environment that our elected leaders have helped to create enabled North Texas to absorb the blow and benefit from poor regulatory environments elsewhere. Today, North Texas is well positioned to take advantage of an economic recovery that appears to be under way.
However, as we witness and celebrate our good fortune, I cannot stress enough that transportation and economic development are indelibly intertwined with one another. I believe it is critical that those of us in the commercial real estate industry highlight the linkage, and actively work to advance vital transportation projects that will keep people and goods moving across North Texas.
Although the growth in our region is a positive indicator for the economy, it has also placed a staggering burden on our transportation infrastructure. Nearly every major hub of economic activity in our region resides among the top 10 congested highway “hotspots” in the state; given the population projections for the next 25 years, this situation will only get worse.
If we want the state to continue to grow, it is incumbent upon our leadership to increase its investment in our transportation infrastructure. Just recently, the Legislature approved a budget that, for the first time ever, devotes more money to transportation debt service than to new construction.
Knowing that Texas is facing a multibillion-dollar deficit and an empty bank account when it comes to transportation, we must enable other revenue streams that will advance critical projects, such as the North Tarrant Express, DFW Connector, LBJ Express, and sections of State Highway 183 and Interstate-35E.
Public-private partnerships, (known as comprehensive development agreements, or CDAs), need to be at the top of our list. Without this innovative funding tool, we will place a chokehold on economic development in one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas. Stalling our regional economic engine—fueled by the thousands of businesses and millions of residents, will have lasting, negative repercussions on the North Texas region and the state of Texas.
In particular, we need the Legislature to authorize public-private partnerships for improvements to our most congested corridors in North Texas, so badly needed projects in our region can begin now—rather than decades in the future.
Serving as president of Hillwood Properties, Mike Berry leads development efforts the 17,000-acre AllianceTexas development north of Fort Worth.